Bibaswan Banerjee, Director, CRM and User Analytics, Klook
The attraction of apps stems from powerful engagement mechanics e.g., notifications and the ability to accommodate feature-rich yet intuitive UI/UX. Appscan makes optimal usage of increasingly powerful local device processing and storage capabilities to offer personalized experiences across search & recommendations, customer service, and purchase funnels. In short, apps provide an engaging platform to retain existing high value and nurture potential high-value customers who support better economics for businesses in the long term.
However, it is not all hunky-dory. A spate of challenges plagues the app landscape: shrinking attention spans, privacy concerns, overuse of notifications, lack of use cases beyond core functionality (often low frequency), and generic experiences with limited personalization results in most apps being hardly used/offloaded within minutes of install. These challenges are exacerbated by new entrants by discoverability issues. In a sea of apps, getting critical mass requires ASO to be supplemented with a paid install strategy that comes with its own baggage of fraud, underwhelming retention, and poor economics.
Despite the challenges, a well thought out app strategy will continue to be a force multiplier for consumer businesses in the new decade. The key to survival will be to step up the personalization game and keep abreast of some disruptive shifts in the app landscape.
Cross-platform is the future.
In the new decade, ‘mobile’ will refer to an array of devices associated with different levels of mobility. Smartphone apps will continue to dominate by virtue of rich interfaces and ever-expanding local storage & processing capabilities. In parallel, wearables as a category will expand to include different form factors and associated apps will continue to see rapid adoption. A third kind will be hosted in smart vehicles allowing natural language enabled, hands-free interactions during journeys. A fourth type will reside in devices with small footprints, that are mobile but used in static settings e.g., smart speakers. The fifth category will reside inside IoT enabled larger household appliances which are static, but able to capture context handed off from mobile devices and respond to natural language/touch/gesture-based inputs.
With a wide array of connected devices surrounding consumers, there are exciting opportunities as well as challenges to overcome for businesses. Firstly, it is not scalable to develop native applications for a plethora of devices and operating systems.
A spate of challenges plagues the app landscape: shrinking attention spans, privacy concerns, overuse of notifications, lack of use cases beyond core functionality (often low frequency), and generic experiences with limited personalization results in most apps being hardly used/offloaded within minutes of install
While the debate on native vs. cross-platform has been around for a decade now, the scales will likely tip in favor of cross-platform frameworks as the discourse shifts from Android/iOS native vs. hybrid and includes a range of devices and OSs. Secondly, every touch- point need not be covered. Consumer interactions with platforms vary basis nature of service/product and the interface itself. It will be critical to re-visit core as well as auxiliary use cases and look at journey maps afresh to prioritize touchpoints and feature sets. The ability to articulate why an app is needed for a touchpoint and how it contributes to an experience that consumers will love will be important.
A tight knit ecosystem of apps operating on connected devices, supporting personalized interactions via touch, type, gesture as well as natural language input can provide a competitive edge, especially when coupled with conversational AI for concierge services featuring search & recommendation, purchase assistance, customer support etc.
Mini Programs and ‘Super-Apps’.
Mini programs are super lightweight versions of native apps that are hosted by all-encompassing ‘super-apps’. While not a particularly new development, WeChat has pioneered this in China since 2016, we are now seeing this trend in APAC with consumer internet behemoths like Grab taking the same route to offer a range of external service options to consumers within its app. We can expect that this trend will continue as well-funded super apps that command high DAU/MAU and have enviable product market fits will create more use cases for customers to come back to their apps.
Smaller players who cannot afford massive marketing budgets to keep pumping top of the funnel will find it compelling to get access to large, engaged, captive audiences offered by super apps albeit at the cost of losing control over organic marketing capabilities such as notifications.
Age of 5G.
Lastly, 5G must be mentioned. Improvements in latency and network capacity alone have massive implications for apps. 5G is expected to bring VR to the mainstream and expand use cases for AR in lockstep with the adoption of new wearable form factors. Streaming / Instant apps will become commonplace- consumers will have the option to not install low-frequency apps and instead stream on demand. Also, the ability to try a wider range of apps before install will reduce device clutter.
Most importantly, 5G will make apps smarter while improving performance. Real-time natural language processing capabilities, conversational AI, and hyper-personalization are driven by online ML operating on granular streaming interaction data that will improve consumer experiences. Locational marketing technologies like ‘beacons’ which rely on BLE will get smarter and layer on cloud-hosted smart algorithms to drive personalized outreach.
To conclude, the app landscape will continue to evolve at breakneck speed in the new decade and as always, businesses need to keep up to survive.